Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

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Preview Time! Games to Look Out For in 2011
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2010's Games of Shame
6/1/2011 22:47

My Fave Games of 2010!
6/1/2011 20:12

StarCraft II Review - Dig Loveth the RTS!?
7/11/2010 12:48

10 Must-Have iPhone Games
2/6/2010 18:09

A Little Hotlink to An Article I Stuck Up On GiantBomb
21/4/2010 15:01

Aliens Vs Predator is Here! Woo! Oh, Hang On...
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iPhone Games!
6/3/2010 20:40

WTF? Dig's Getting Hitched!
18/2/2010 23:39

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If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

Ninja Gaiden II - the Verdict
Posted by Diggler - 25/6/2008 22:29

The baddest bad arse of them all is back! Ryu's the man, no doubts there. But is his latest outing up there with the first? And more specifically, its zillion remakes?
Gaiden II is an odd beast really; an often times monstrous beat 'em up beaut that takes its predecessor's insanity to demented new levels, while regularly dropping the ball in a multitude of different ways, and simultaneously failing to come up with anything particularly original either. "Ain't broke, don't fix" is the obvious mantra, with an almost identical look, feel and style to the first game, albeit with some new missions and the odd combat tweak. Which, let's be honest, has been creator Tomonobu Itagaki's calling card in every damn sequel he's spat out pretty much ever.

For better or worse then - much like in Gaiden's original Xbox incarnation from 2004 - few things still match up to unloading a relentless combo of craziness into a screen full of enemies, somersaulting outta the way of their counter-attacks, then decapitating the stragglers in an awesome display of kinetic ninjitsu. Yes sir, Gaiden's fighting system is just as vicious and brutal as ever, not to mention every bit as spectacular to simply watch. In fact, the sequel's pleasing new emphasis on blood and gore rackets such shenanigans up an extra level on top, with limbs dropping left, right and center, more heads detached from spinal columns than conjoining them, and jugulars spurting out blood all over the freakin' shop. Constantly.

If there's one major upgrade this time out, it'd defo be the gore. Massive chunks of brain and endless showers of blood bathe the sucker in glorious washes of red and green from head to toe. Yummy
A little "Mortal Kombat" it may be - particularly in comparison to the original's more minimal slicing 'n' dicing - but you'll rarely laugh as loud as you do each and every time you batter a foe so damn hard a mere torso is all that remains. This new found ability to hack off any and every limb does serve some minor gameplay purposes too. The new "obliterations" allow you to insta-kill any enemy that's partially wounded in this manner...a split-second pre-canned finisher of sorts, that's not only fuckin' fun as hell to watch, but more importantly allows you to mow down enemies far quicker than traditional hacking 'n' slashing ever could. Neat.

Weapons of Mass CRAZY FUCKING CHAOS

Joining the oblits on the new-ness tip are a pleasing wealth of fab new weapons. In fact, the range and balance of each and every one is worthy of immense applause, and this game's prime area of improvement for me. From the God of War-esque chain sickles, to the hilariously sick new tonfas, rarely has a game provided such a wide range, yet expertly realised selection of death dealers, so much so that there is literally a use for every single one. The original NG boasted ample dead weight in regards to its weapon load-out - you found yourself sticking to the trusty Dragon Sword or bo staff as a result - but not so here. Now I feel like there's a time and a place for every single one of the crazy bastards, from massive crowd control, to one on one show-downs, to humungous aerial boss fights and beyond. All situations command a different utensil, and thus the player's mastering of each. Just as it should be.

NG2's graphics are amazing in places, with the latter half in particular regularly invoking wood. Other parts however, are super bland. There's a green-tinted underground tunnel for instance that looks literally PSone-caliber
That said, Gaiden II is in no way as tough as its forefather ever was. Auto save points, tons more power-ups, a new easy mode, and a recharging health system all up the ease considerably, the latter having a huge effect in particular. It'll never recharge mid-battle, instead waiting 'til your screen's empty before re-filling, but this essentially turns the game more into a series of duels that you're able to face at peak condition, rather than the tip-toeing around corners with just a slither of health that you perhaps once did. The game's overall sense of frustration is seriously reduced as a result, which'll no doubt sit well with those who got stuck on the first game's opening level.

That said, this is still a game where by the 11th chapter, the boss you faced on level one has become a run-of-the-mil grunt whom you fight multiple versions of simultaneously without batting an eyelid, so do expect some lashes. The unlockable "Mentor" difficulty in particular, is more in line with the Ninja Gaiden frustration we all know and "love".

Those Dropped Balls

Reading the above, all sounds swell regardless. Improved weapons, that same visceral combat, and a more finely tuned difficulty curve...the perfect action game, surely? Sadly not. Itagaki's now well-documented legal troubles with Tecmo, and his instant quitting the second this game shipped, are all over this thing like a cheap suit ya see. From the corner cutting and constant bugs walloping you over the head, to the often rushed visuals and lack of game modes, it's easy to claim more time was needed in the oven. It's no where near as polished as the original with that in mind, particularly in the visual department. Shit's framey, lacks detail, and early environments in particular come off deathly dull to look at.

Gaiden 2's camera is super shit, and oddly worse than even the original game's, let alone Black and Sigma. It says a lot that I basically overlooked - or should I say, ignored - this fact for the entirety of the game, 'cos the battles were so effin' fun
In the latter half things do improve drastically however, both graphically and in terms of level design. There's a spectacular airship level that truly dwarfs that of the first game, and every single mission set in the ominous demon world is sure to make your jaw drop in its scope, lavish color palette, and purely overwhelming odds. It's a pity the game forces you through crappy New York sewer levels and horrendous water sections in its first half to get there really. "Uneven" is the term I'd use, which is a pity in a game so long, as with some tighter editing and the odd dropped mission, this'd be Gaiden at its very best. As it is though? I think I actually prefer Sigma.

It's hard giving NG2 a score with all that in mind. At times it blows its predecessor away, with even further improved combat, better weapons, and a gob-smacking final run of epic levels that are the absolute pinnacle and peak that this series has known. At the same time it feels unfinished, lacking side content, and is technically underwhelming. And as an aside? Boasts quite possibly the worst camera I've ever seen in a game.

But hey, at least it beats the DS version...

(Pictures courtesy of Ninja Gaiden 2)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

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Area 5
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Fully Ramblomatic
A hysterical gaming blogger posting what he calls "zero punctuation" video reviews that have to be seen - and heard - to be believed

A Life Well Wasted
Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

On the Spot
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The Hotspot
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Gaming Steve
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Consolevania
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Major Nelson
An interesting "blogcast" hosted by a Microsoft employee, featuring stacks of exclusive behind the scenes news and interviews relating to all things Xbox 360

The Kojima Productions Report
Official podcast from the team of Hideo Kojima, creator of the much-loved Metal Gear franchise. Full of news and interviews relating to all things Metal Gear, it's probably one for die-hard fans only

Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

Kotaku
What you could call gaming's homepage. Constantly updated news and links on the entire industry, from minute breaking headlines, to funny arse viral vids

Game Trailers
Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

Game Videos
Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

Gamespot
The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

1up.com
Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
The most up to date and reliable way to keep track of all the new Xbox Live Marketplace content, from new weapons and map packs, to movie trailers and game demos

Xbox Reloaded
360 backwards compatibility can be a minefield. This blog attempts to shed some light on the issue by playing original Xbox games for you and reporting back the results

GameFAQs
The ultimate resource for walkthroughs and cheats

Disposable Media
A wonderful (and free) E-zine, full of reviews and articles on gaming, movies, music and TV. Puts most high street mags to shame

X-Fire
A must-have for all PC gamers, X-Fire is a buddy list and communications tool that keeps constant tabs on what games both you and all your mates are playing, on or offline

Steam
A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

MyGamerCard.net
Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Smodcast
Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff

 

Matt Robinson, 2011

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